Professors adjust to altered schedule

After Hurricane Sandy prompted administrators to cancel classes for the first time in 34 years, professors have had to adjust their curriculum to the shortened schedule.

Due to the severe weather conditions immediately following Yale’s fall break, University Vice President Linda Lorimer announced in an email to the Yale community that all classes and extracurricular activities for Oct. 29 and Oct. 30 were cancelled. Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard said in an email after the storm that administrators would not declare an official makeup period and that faculty members could adjust their schedules or arrange for additional classes at their own discretion. Professors interviewed said they have taken different approaches to rescheduling based on the format and content of their courses, and while several scheduled one additional class, others modified the syllabus or condensed material into shorter time periods.

All nine professors said students would be responsible for the same amount of material as before the storm.

“I’ve been at Yale an awfully long time and can’t remember another time when they cancelled classes,” Italian professor Risa Sodi GRD ’95 said. “But I think we’ve come up with good solutions for this unusual problem.”

Miller said that this year’s lengthened fall term meant professors could present the same amount of material without the University requiring professors and students to reschedule missed class time. Last year’s academic calendar scheduled regular class on 12 Mondays and Tuesdays, but this year’s addition of fall break and shortened reading period resulted in 13.

Professor Narasimhan Ganapathi, who teaches General Chemistry, said he and his colleagues contemplated many options to make up canceled class including scheduling class during reading period, but ultimately determined students would benefit from maintaining the planned course schedule. Instead, he said, General Chemistry professors chose to remove extraneous information from their lectures and concentrate on the important subjects.

“In the past there [were] situations where I have spent more time than necessary on certain topics, and this year I’m going to be more aware of that and not going to do that,” Ganapathi said.

Sodi, who directs the Italian language program, said her department will also cover the same amount of material without additional class by transforming “culture days” — days when the professor discusses aspects of Italian culture instead of teaching the language — into regular class days and by assigning an in-class movie as homework instead.

But Jim Rolf, the course director for Math 115, said he and the other instructors decided to offer a makeup section at several different times so that all students would be able to attend. He added that attendance in the optional problem-solving sections has increased following the storm.

“We wanted to give the students as much support as we thought we could,” Rolf said. “My personal opinion is that [cancelled class] doesn’t add too much of an extra burden on the students as long as they are willing to come to the makeup sections.”

All thirteen students interviewed expressed satisfaction with professors’ strategies to make up for the missed classes, and five students said the time off was beneficial because the extended break gave them a chance to catch up on reading.

Candice Gurbatri ’14 said her professors stayed in touch with students throughout the storm and updated them on how they would compensate for the lost time. She added that only one of her professors rescheduled classes, but he solicited student input to determine the best time and bought pizza for all the students who attended the make-up session.

Sharif Vakili ’13 said he thinks the cancelled classes did not add additional stress because professors handled the altered schedule with their students in mind.

“The strain is on the professors,” Vakili said. “They’re putting in the extra time so that we don’t feel rushed and feel less of an impact of the storm.”

The last University-wide cancellation of classes occurred during the “Blizzard of ’78,” a February snowstorm that resulted in over two feet of snow.

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